Nov 172015
 

Growing up I don’t really remember receiving thank you notes, and I am certain I rarely never gave them. As I entered the adult world I began to both send and receive them, and it never ceases to amaze me how powerful a thank you note can be.  This could be for the bad, like the time I got a thank you note more than a year after I gave someone a gift, or the time I found a thank you note shoved in a student’s chair pocket when he was supposed to take it home weeks prior.  Luckily, these situations are rare and thank you notes usually have a positive result.

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 When a High School school student who worked in my classroom for two different years graduated she wrote me a thank you note.  A conversation could never have expressed what was said in that card.

When I taught 2nd grade an extremely quiet boy wrote me a thank you card at Christmas.  It hung on my fridge for 3 years.

At the end of Night Crossing, a 5th grade girl gave one of her leaders a thank you note.  The note was read with tears, and then read aloud to others.  It brought joy to more than just the recipient.

 

So as Thanksgiving approaches and we take time to truly remember what we are thankful for, why not find ways cultivate thankful hearts in our homes?  This November have your kids make a list of people who have impacted them in recent months, and write cards to those people.  You can even go a step farther and have your family pray for these people (read Kristin’s Praying Hands Turkey post here), then mail the notes…you know, stamps, envelopes.

Here are some people to consider…

  • Teachers
  • Grandparents
  • Doctors
  • Crossing Kids volunteers
  • Babysitters
  • Friends who recently came to play
  • Coaches

A thankful heart can be an overflow of the grace and love we have in Christ, and I can’t think of a better way to teach this to kids than by a hands on approach that will bless others.

Nov 112015
 

With Thanksgiving just around the corner I’m sure lots of you are excited to spend time with family and friends. With some extra time off, and the kids home from school it can also be overwhelming to find something to keep kids busy and in the holiday spirit. If your kiddos are anything like I was as a child, then a good craft project is always appreciated. If that craft project just so happens to help kids think about thankfulness as well, then it’s all the better! With that in mind I present to you-

The Thankful Prayer Turkey! (Or TPT for short)

 

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This was a fun and easy to do project that lead to some really good conversation with my 5-year-old niece. This could be done with most ages, but younger kiddos will need a lot more help. Here is how we did it!

 

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Supplies:

Pen or Pencil (maybe some markers)

Glue Sticks

Scissors

Construction Paper in Various Colors

 

 

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First and foremost we had to pick our colors. I tired to encourage the red-orange-yellow look in the name of tradition, but what 5-year-old girl doesn’t put a little pink on every craft project? So we traced our hands 4 times, once on the brown paper for our turkey “body” and then once for each of our three “feather” colors. The farther apart our fingers were the better they turned out once you put it all together.

 

 

From there we need to cut things out. This is where younger kiddos might need some extra help. For the 5-year-old it just meant drawing some lines to help her know what we were cutting around and what we were cutting off. (And then Auntie Kristin took over the cutting and let her take the pictures when little-bit got bored.)

 


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For your turkey body you cut out the thumb and hand, but ignore the 4 fingers. All of the other colors are the opposite; cut out the fingers and hand, ignore the thumb.

 

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Next it’s time to glue. What worked best for us was to have her glue on the “body” and add the feathers layer by layer.

 

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Finally it was time for my favorite part- writing on the feathers. Instead of just being done when we had a cute turkey, I thought it would be fun to let our craft lead to some discussion about what we are thankful for. I gave the options of either drawing pictures or writing on the feathers and being the “Big Girl” she is it was time to write! If you have a little one who wants to draw or write on their own, it might be helpful to write on the back of each feather what their picture is of. (That way we won’t forget when it’s time to pray.)

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This was so much fun because it gave us a chance to talk about all of the wonderful things we can be thankful for. We talked about foods, toys, people, places, and activities. My niece had endless suggestions of what to put on her turkey, but soon realized that she had limited space and needed to be selective. It was so fun to see her choose “God” over “Frozen” and how the first thing she insisted on writing was her best friend’s name (which she can spell all by herself!)

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When we were all done she decided to put it by her bed so that she could pray to God and thank Him for all of the things on her turkey. This could also easily be pulled out to use as a prayer before dinner, or even just to lead a prayer right after you make your turkey. Regardless of how your family chooses to use these turkeys, it will get kids focused on thankfulness instead of belly-fullness.

 

Happy Crafting!

 

Nov 282013
 

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There, in the presence of the Lord your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the Lord your God has blessed you (Deuteronomy 12:7).

Praise to the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! (Psalm 106:1)

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

Over three hundred years ago, America’s forefathers gathered together in this new land and gave thanks to God for the blessings that He had bestowed on them during the year.  See – the English girl is learning!

I hope that this week, each of us finds the time to sit with our families, friends and children, discussing and delighting in the blessings that God has bestowed upon us this past year. It’s a great opportunity to talk with our kids, and even remind ourselves why we celebrate Thanksgiving, and why Thanksgiving is so much more than a commercial holiday…

But really. Give thanks in all circumstances?

 

A 5 a.m. to start for this wretched Turkey and I…

Family tension…

Uncle Bob lets out a second notch on his belt, before having his annual snooze…

Grandma has enjoyed it, but now she’s exhausted and the kids are arguing, again…

Mum just doesn’t stop complaining…

Dad just watches the football all day…

First Thanksgiving alone…

If you only knew the year I’ve had…

God sees. He knows. He cares. He loves.

Look Back and see God’s faithfulness to his people throughout history, at the cross and in Jesus’ resurrection. Give thanks.

Look Down and around, wonder at God’s blessings and gifts of grace in your own personal life. They are there, no matter how big or small. Give thanks.

Look Out, seek to encourage and bless those around you with joy and thanksgiving. Give thanks.

Look Forward to the joy that is set before us. The future we’re promised in Christ Jesus. Give thanks.

To give thanks is a command. In the highs and the lows, the ups and the downs of life… we are to give thanks. So let us give thanks this day. Let us praise, thank, serve and worship our ever faithful God! 

Psalm 100

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
Know that the Lord, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;[a]
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!
For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.

For the kids: here is a funny poem and some coloring pages to enjoy!

Nov 262013
 

While grocery shopping, I overheard two girls about my age describe what kept them from having people over to share a meal.  Perhaps their list looks a little like yours.  You feel like the place you live isn’t big enough, the dishes you own don’t match, or perhaps your cooking and decorating prowess leaves something to be desired.  While they talked, I couldn’t help but think about the homes and people who have demonstrated hospitality most clearly to me.

One was the place I grew up in, the kitchen where my mom strategically placed rugs to cover over holes in the linoleum.  Chipped every day dishes and mismatched silverware graced both everyday and holiday tablescapes alike, but there was always room for one more.  Another is the home in which I currently live.  Two dear friends have entrusted it to my husband and I while they serve the people of Guatemala.  Their generosity began far before handing over a set of keys, though.  The space itself reminds me a lot of where I grew up.  So do the people who own it.  A third place is on the edge of town.  It’s different than the other two places physically.  Intricately decorated hallways and beautiful place settings, it looks as though it could have come from a magazine.   Yet the people who welcome countless crowds and individuals alike each night put their guests at ease with their genuine warmth.  I can’t help but find myself sinking into their couch the same way I would at my own home.  Their words echo those I’ve heard from the other two sets of people, “This house isn’t ours, it’s God’s.”  If I were to ask you to describe those who modeled hospitality to you, I have a feeling that the external descriptors might vary while the internal ones remained the same.

It’s not hard to have a distorted view of what hospitality looks like.  Pinterest, HGTV, and the Food Network are quick to offer both great ideas and a lengthy list of how what we have both in terms of possessions and competence simply aren’t enough.  Comparison and discontentment can lead us to give up.  They can also lead us to condemn and dismiss others who have the very things we so desperately want.  Hospitality isn’t about having a plain home OR a fancy home.  Pinterest is not the problem, our hearts are.

I’ve recently been reading a book called Table Life that is helping me process what true hospitality looks and feels like.  Joanne Thompson writes,

Hospitality is more about your faith than your competence.  A farmer can’t create a single grain of wheat himself, but by faith, he cooperates with God by tilling, planting, watering, and expecting a great return.  Sharing your table isn’t fueld by faith in your magnificent entertaining skills or gregarious personality; it’s believing that God will satisfy hearts as well as appetites when you share your table in Jesus’ name…Have you ever had the restless thought, ‘I’ll never have a table like that’?  Creativity celebrates God, but when we allow someone else’s gifts to poke holes in our own contentment, we’re not likely to share the tables in our homes.”

Therein lies the problem.  Who am I placing my faith in?  Is sharing a meal about God’s glory or about mine?

Like Martha, we may be anxious and troubled about many things as we welcome friends and families into our homes this holiday season.  Yet Jesus patiently reminds us too that only one thing is necessary.  That one thing is not the perfect pie crust, not the perfectly scrubbed bathroom floor, not the perfectly behaved kids or family, not the perfect tablescape or conversation starter.  That one thing is His very presence.  As you celebrate this Thanksgiving, remember His invitation in Luke 10:38-42 is the same He offers us as well.

Hurry Destroys Souls
Found Poetry from Keith Simon’s Sermon on Luke 10:38-42
January 8, 2012

An obstacle
more common
than
hardship,
suffering,
renouncing,
or doubt.

Busyness.

Cluttered minds.
Distracted hearts.
Lives sprinting.

Settling for a
mediocre version
of faith.

Worried and upset
about many things.

A picture of who we are
and who we want to be.

Choose what is better
and it will not
be taken away.

The things of most importance
can’t be left
to the mercy
of the things of least.

Yet we feed
souls created for more
with busyness.
Kept from the greatest treasure
we could ever know.
Neglecting the ultimate
for the lesser.

Life doesn’t just fall in place
without
deliberate,
intentionality.
Neither does transformation
happen apart from
grace.

Jesus isn’t yelling,
but inviting.
Few things needed,
indeed only one.

My soul finds rest
in God alone.

Be still and know
the one exalted
among the
nations.
The one who prefers
our company
to our service.

tablelife

Nov 192013
 

Each year I’m always trying to find ways to help my family celebrate Thanksgiving in a way that is meaningful.

If you are like me with three boys, then you need fun and active things to do when they are home and the house is full.  Here are a few ideas that we did as a family when my children were younger.

Now that my kids are older, I’m still looking for ways to engage them. Last year I tried an idea that Jess posted on our blog. I made a Thanksgiving Tree for our dining room table. Each of us would write something we were thankful for on a leaf as we ate a meal together. It was a great visual picture of our thankfulness to God for all the blessings in our lives. And we got a peek inside of our hearts and minds as we read what others wrote.

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But along with planning out things for my family, this year I wanted to prepare my heart as well. I was at a dinner with some friends from church and one woman shared this devotional about “practicing thankfulness”. I was struck by the reminder that thankfulness is “learned”:

I believe gratitude grows with practice. When you thank God, regardless of your feelings, it primes the pump of your heart until gratitude begins to flow freely.

If this is a language you have not spoken often, you can become fluent…with practice. Paul wrote, “I have learned how to get along happily whether I have much or little. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything” (Philippians 4:11-12 NLT, emphasis mine). “I have learned.”

As with any foreign language we attempt to learn, the more we use it, the more fluent we become. Is it too strong to say that the language of gratitude is a “foreign” tongue? I don’t think so. We come into the world screaming with our very first breath, “It’s all about me and my needs!” With tightly closed fists and squeezed shut eyes we demand attention. A newborn babe can think of nothing more than his wants and his needs: feed me, hold me, change me, nurse me…and do it right now! I would like to think we eventually grow out of that infantile attitude, but I’m sorry to say, many never do.

But we don’t have to live like self-centered, self-absorbed ingrates. We can learn God’s love language of gratitude that opens our eyes and unfurls the fingers. We can speak words of gratitude that remove the blinders to see glimpses of His glory every day. As we discover and practice the beautiful language of gratitude, our native tongue of self-focused dissatisfaction begins to fade.

So I committed myself to reading a book this month called One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. I’ve only read a few chapters but, wow, is God using it to deepen my desire to give thanks for all the blessings he has given to me. Ann spent a year writing down 1000 gifts that she could thank God for in her journal and it changed her forever. This book is her story of how God used this process in her life. I’m hoping it will change mine as well.

How will you “practice thankfulness” this year?

Nov 052013
 

As I ran errands yesterday, I heard two different radio stations play Christmas music.  While I have to admit, I’m not quite ready for this and don’t like that many skip right over Thanksgiving, it did cause me to pause and consider how to be intentional during the next two months of holiday season. Perhaps you’ve had a similar experience as you’ve noticed stores or other radio stations “decking the halls” prematurely.

In her book Treasuring God in Our Traditions, Noel Piper shares not just a rationale for why “everyday and especially traditions” are important, but practical ideas that help children and their families look to the Giver of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17) in the process.  Below are just a few favorite excerpts.

  • “Now although we cannot bequeath God to our children, we can help them know him and understand him in ways that prepare them to believe in his name.  ”Everyday” and “especially” traditions in a family are an important part of that teaching, of picturing who God is and what he’s done in our home and in the world.  Traditions are a vital way of displaying our greatest treasure, of showing what–Who–is most important to us.”
  • “In the book of Exodus, Moses displays his understanding of the nature of children and the responsibility of parents: “And when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ you shall say, ‘It is the sacrifice of the LORD’s Passover for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt’” (Exodus 12:26-27).  Moses assumes children will ask why. And he instructs parents to give an answer that speaks of reality.  The instruction is all in the context of laying out for children ceremonies that will portray the answer.  He is giving them the answer, both spoken and displayed.  And the answer is God–God saved us, and we honor him, worship him, thank him.  We and our children need this kind of yearly repetition to impress us with the weight of what God has done.”  
  • “Perhaps the greatest value of good traditions is that through them we learn about and recognize and experience the faithfulness of our God, who promises, ‘I will not leave you or forsake you” (Joshua 1:5)…We don’t know exactly what our children’s strongest, lasting memories will be.  But we do want to make sure that our daily, weekly, “regularly random” activities occur in a God-filled context–that we recognize him in all of our life and show him everywhere to our children.”
  • “God knows we need ‘especially’…God himself appointed special days, such as Passover, for his people and gave them ceremonies to set those days off from the others (Exodus 12:1-20).  December 25, for example, could pass like any other day in our week, except for the thought and preparation we give to it and the customs and traditions that surround it.  The ceremony of a special day keeps it from slipping away like an ordinary day.  We stop and recognize the specialness of an event in large part because of the traditions in which it’s wrapped.  Our “especially” celebrations anchor us and our children in the harbor of our family, reflecting our true refuge–God.  The way we observe these occasions–the focus of our observation–has great potential to show our children what we think is most important and to help them value what we hold most dear.”
  • “Through him we have birth and life and every thing and every person in our lives.  So God is the reason we have anything to celebrate.  He is the ultimate source of any of our celebrations…As my husband (John Piper) explains, “If created things are seen and handled as gifts of God and as mirrors of his glory, they need not be occasions of idolatry–if our delight in them is always also a delight in their Maker.’”  
  • My goal is that we evaluate our traditions.  It’s not enough to do things just because that’s the way we’ve always done them.  We must think about our traditions.  If an activity or custom says what we mean about God and our relationship with him, we keep it.  Some we’ll want to change, and some we’ll want to set aside to make place for something new…They should have God at the center.  Let’s just remember what we’re after:  Remembering what God did for his people, for us, and giving glory to God for what he’s done, so our children and their children will know him.
During the months of November and December, we plan to share some of our favorite traditions for Thanksgiving, Advent, and Christmas with you that go beyond what is temporary and point to what is lasting.
We also invite you to share some of your favorite traditions that have helped you and/or your family treasure God.  We’d love for you to comment either below or on Facebook.
treasure

Thanksgiving and the Ten Lepers

 Devotional, Thanskgiving  Comments Off on Thanksgiving and the Ten Lepers
Nov 172011
 

What is the first image that comes to mind when you hear the word, “Thanksgiving?” Turkey? Family? Pumpkin pie? Vacation? Pilgrims? Football? Lepers?

Wait a minute…lepers? Most of us probably don’t think of lepers when we think of Thanksgiving. But the story of the ten lepers in Luke 17 has a lot to teach us about Thanksgiving. What are we really giving thanks for on Thanksgiving? More importantly, who are we giving thanks to?

The Bible tells us in 1 Chronicles 16:34, to ““Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.”

I love this verse. It simply tells us to give thanks to God for His love lasts in eternity. How often do we stop on Thanksgiving and meditate on God’s enduring love? How do we give thanks to the One who has given us everything?

The story of the ten lepers speaks into the meaning of true thanksgiving. Luke 17:11-17 reads:

11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”

 14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.

 15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.

 17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

Lepers were required to keep away from people in fear that others would catch their disease. The disease is quite terrible. They cannot feel anything. No pain, nothing. Because of this they get infections and injure themselves without knowing it. Then the infection spreads and they smell like rotting meat. They often lose finger arms feet and other body parts.

Lepers were outcasts. Their condition had made them unclean in the eyes of the public and the authorities. They were not allowed to join in with the rest of society. They had to avoid ANY contact with any other people. They could not touch anyone and no one dared to touch them. They could not touch anything that others would touch. And no one dared touch anything that belonged to them. They could not stay in the same place, they could not worship with others, they could not work, could not drink the same water, could not eat the same food. They were forced to live away from everyone else – completely isolated. They were rejected. Lepers were not allowed to mingle with the public in any way.

If the lepers had tried to approach Jesus there would have been a riot. Instead, they kept their distance and shouted all together as one voice “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” In this way, Jesus was drawn to them.

By what they had heard about Jesus, they knew that had the power to heal them.

Jesus healed them, but then Jesus did something that seems a little strange. He asked them to go to the Priests. Why? Because even though healed, people would want to have a public validation that they had been healed. Only the Priests could do that. Priests were the ones who could inspect a leper and say, “Yes, you are clean now, go free. You don’t have to remain an outcast anymore”. By this, Jesus not only healed the lepers, but also brought them back into fellowship with the community.

The big question is: why did only one leper come back and give thanks? After Jesus did this huge thing for them, wouldn’t you think more would come back to Jesus and “give thanks to the Lord for He is good?”

The truth is it’s easy for all of us to forget to give thanks to the Lord – on Thanksgiving Day and every other day. We get busy with work and friends and responsibilities and forget to give thanks. On thanksgiving – it is a whole day set aside to help us to remember to give thanks for all God has given us. We have a lot to be thankful for because God gave us EVERYTHING.  When I think of all I have to be thankful for – it overwhelms me how much God has done for me.

The one leper who did come to give thanks can teach us a lot about how we do this. The Bible says he “praised God in a loud voice” and “threw himself and Jesus’ feet.” I encourage you and your family this Thanksgiving to consider what you are thankful for. Maybe make a list or go around at the dinner table and share. Then, spend some time praising God and falling at the feet of Jesus. Maybe you can spend some time in prayer, singing songs or journaling this Thanksgiving. This Thanksgiving, let’s be like the one leper who came back to Christ and gave thanks for all He had done.